• 1 Feb 2018

The last report jointly published by Art Basel and UBS by the end of the last 2017 quarter places China in third position in the Fine Arts market. Even though the United States of America are well ahead in the rankings, China represented in 2017 close to 20% of the total auction sale volume, that is to say 57 billion dollars in that sector. What is at stake for this key player in the Fine Arts market?

© Pexels

A dazzling rise to power

In 2007, China only represented 9% of the Fine Arts market sales according to Art Basel’s report. However, two years later, the percentage nearly doubled. The peak was reached in 2011 with a 30% representation rate before the United States of America made a comeback. As a result, in 2017, for the first time, it was the Asian market that turned out to lead the major auction sales both in Modern and Contemporary Art. Despite the fact that the buyer of the most expensive Artwork in the world was the Saudi Prince, “Salvator Mundi” by Leonard Da Vinci was exhibited in Hong Kong first. In fact, it underlines the significance of China’s role in the Fine Arts market.

A special attention to classic Chinese Art and master painters

China lost a considerable part of its artistic treasures because of its history’s turmoils. Nonetheless, the Chinese contemporary elite who saw its incomes increase, buy step by step the lost Artworks. As a result, Chinese masters from the 20th century such as Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong and Zhang Daqian are more and more coveted. In fact, on December 18th, 2017, on the occasion of an auction in Beijing, a collection of 12 landscapes by Qi Baishi was sold for almost 171 million dollars. Also, according to Artprice, in 2017, Artist Zhang generated 31 billion dollars more in sales revenue as opposed to Pablo Picasso.

This is Chinese Artist Qi Baishi's Artwork entitled "Stealing the Wine Vat" and which was presumably made before 1957.

“Stealing the Wine Vat”, end of the 19th century © Qi Baishi

China and Contemporary Art

The influence of Chinese investors on Contemporary Art is not so easy to measure. Indeed, even though celebrated Artists such as Cui Zuhuo or Yayoi Kusama still sell their Artworks for millions of dollars, the Chinese investments rarely finance emerging Artists. The questions asked by Asian investors are a little different from the ones Europeans generally ask. Effectively, the importance of the Artwork’s material plays a significant role. It mostly shows that there is a tendency to worry about selling Artworks that were made from non lasting material. It has been the case for Artist Yeoh Wee Hwee who creates sculptures with tape. Indeed, the Artist told CNBC:”in the U.K., that question never comes up, but in Asia and China, I get questions over why the material I use doesn’t last,”

This picture represents Artist Yayoi Kusama's sculptures on the occasion of Singapore's 2006 Biennale.

2006 Singapore Biennale © Yayoi Kusama


Read our article about sculptor Minh Châu, also Art-Trope Artist selected to be included in the 2018 edition of Art Capital Art fair in Paris here.

Source: CNBC